'Govt respects right to privacy': Amid row with WhatsApp, RS Prasad says new rules 'empower ordinary users'

Amid an ongoing row with WhatsApp over the implementation of the Centre's new rules for regulation of digital content, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday sought to reassure users. The government, he said, recognised and respected the right to privacy, and ordinary WhatsApp users had nothing to be concerned about.

"Ordinary users of WhatsApp have nothing to fear about the new rules. Its entire objective is to find out who started the message that led to commissioning of specific crimes mentioned in the rules," the Electronics and Information Technology Minister said.

His remarks come less than a day after the Facebook-owned instant messaging platform challenged the new IT rule over traceability of messages and termed it unconstitutional, contending that it breaches basic privacy of citizens. Under the recently notified Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, social media intermediaries with more than 5 million users and providing messaging services will have to enable the identification of the first originator of problematic content that may harm the country's interests.

Prasad contends that the new rules are designed only to prevent abuse and misuse of social media. The government, he said, welcomed criticism including the right to ask questions. "'The Rules only empower the ordinary users of social media when they become victims of abuse and misuse," he added.

Further details awaited.

(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal

www.freepressjournal.in